Thursday, April 27, 2006

As Good As It Gets

"This is as good as it gets."

This was the sentiment I heard recently on Easter Sunday. It was the main idea of the Easter Sunday sermon, as a matter of fact. "This is as good as it gets."

If the implication had been that this is as good as church gets, then I'd probably agree. Christmas, Easter, and Mother's Day are usually the highest attendance Sundays at most churches, everybody's dressed up, lots of nice smelling flowers, etc. Yeah, Easter Sunday may be about as good as church gets.

But this is not quite what this person meant. The message was that the Resurrection of Jesus and the fruits of it that we see here today are, in fact, the very best God has to offer us. What we see here and now is, according to this person, the escatological apex of God's creation.

I'm sorry but if the here and now are as good as it gets, if this is the culmination of God's plan then I'm out! If the Resurrection is the end of the story then we're all screwed.

Yes, Easter Sunday is nice. For those of us that get to participate, that is. I can afford a nice suit and tie so I won't be embarassed to show up to church with all the other nicely dressed people. I can celebrate this Holy Day with my whole family, none of whom are estranged, dead before their time, or otherwise unable to join us. I can afford to go out to a nice Easter brunch with more nicely dressed people. It's easy for me to sit back and say that this is as good as it gets.

But what about the person who's just lost a child and seeing happy families together is a painful reminder of their loss? What about those who have experienced a tragedy that makes it difficult for them to even believe in a loving God? What about those who just plain don't feel welcome inside a church building? I don't think that Easter Sunday at a suburban church would feel like "as good as it gets" to everyone.

Thankfully the message of Easter is not "this is as good as it gets", but "this is a foretaste of something so good you can't even imagine". The Resurrection of Jesus is a sign to us that just as violence and death did not have the last word for Jesus, so they will not have the last word for us. As some of my professors are fond of saying, the hope of the Resurrection is the hope of God's "already/not yet" kingdom. Here and now is not as good as it gets. It gets better.

Marx was critical of the "things will get better notion", and rightly so. When he said that religion is the opiate of the masses he was critcizing the government's use of eschatological hope to make the lower classes complacent about their present situation.

To spiritualize the "it gets better" message of Easter and say that the hope is only for a nice place in the clouds after we die is to miss the point entirely. The hope of Easter is that the Kingdom of God can begin today. Jesus' body didn't disappear and leave a note that says "see you in heaven". His body was raised to show that this world will be redeemed. There is, in fact, hope for creation on this side of death!

Yes, Easter Sunday is pretty good for many of us. Perhaps it's even the best we've seen thus far. For those of us that do have it good on Easter Sunday we have the simultanious hope and challenge of Jesus' resurrection. Those who suffer will now begin to see a brighter day, and we are charged to play a part in making that brighter day happen.

This is not as good as it gets. The best is yet to come. Thanks be to God.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Wonderful "sermon" here, Matt!!! You preach it, brother!! Amen! Thanks be to God, indeed!